Categories
Interview Review

Aesop’s Fables in an enterprise setting

Ranjith Reddy Varakantam, Principal Agile Coach, wrote what we thought was a pretty epic review of I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge on amazon.in and goodreads.com.

He called it “a lean book” that “conveys new learnings with every chapter.” Ultimately describing it as “Aesop’s Fables in an enterprise setting.”

His words piqued our interest so we reached out to Ranjith to learn more about what he’s up to and how the book helped him. Here’s what he had to say.

As a Principle Agile Coach, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that the Developer Group, which consists of around 28 teams, is continuously working on small improvements.

One high priority project that we are working on right now is to create a 100% automated workflow that will allow Operator based Containers to be released with zero manual intervention. This will only succeed if we can get multiple groups to work together to deliver the tooling and functionality.

This is quite challenging as it is a complex project that needs people to solve not just hard technical issues but also cultural ones. The interdependencies between multiple teams and the competing priorities raises the table stakes.

Working with this many people and priorities can at times make me feel that some people are “difficult” and don’t seem to be contributing how I’d like them to be. I was feeling this frustration when I picked up the book. Skimming through the first chapter, to my surprise found the main character was in exactly the same position!

“I’ve done my best,” she says. “Maybe this isn’t the job for me. Maybe I should be in a different company. I just wish everyone around me would do more, be better somehow.” These were exactly the same thoughts going through my head. I became riveted to the book. I wanted to find out more.

By the end of the first chapter, the main character realized her folly by talking things through with her wise colleague. The colleague shows her that instead of ‘venting’, she would make more progress if she spent her time ‘inquiring’. 

That changed my state of mind and I started to think about what I could do to ensure that gaps were filled and make things crystal clear for people to improve their efficiency. 

As I continued to read chapter after chapter, I realized that the challenges that I face or the thoughts that go through my head are common in organizations. The people are not so different from each other and mostly it’s the same kind of situations that we all find ourselves in. 

By the end of the story, I realized that I needed to be more attentive and mindful. To be willing to view the situation from a different perspective. With a little bit of work on ourselves, we are actually capable of making a big difference.

After reading this book, I’m now more interested in looking at the problem from various angles without prejudging people. Instead, I try to see what we can do to solve the problem or challenge at hand.

I’ve also found this book to be a handy reference that I can revisit again and again as there are many things that can be picked up. The best part is that each chapter has a clear set of guidelines and additional reading that I can catch up on.

This book has motivated me to look within myself for answers and realized that most often by working a bit on ourselves, we give birth to new powers and greater degrees of effectiveness.

Thanks, Ranjith for sharing your story on how the book helped you.
From time to time Ranjith publishes articles on Linkedin and Opensource.com. If you’d like to reach out to Ranjith, the best way is via his Linkedin profile.

Categories
Story

What happened next?

Editor’s note: This article is written from the perspective of a fictional character, Sandrine, the protagonist of I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge. You can learn more about the book at https://iamincharge.club

This story is a sequel to Confinement, published in April 2020.

Sandrine has now been working at home for seven weeks. So many things have adapted during this time that in some ways it all feels normal to her now, but from time to time she is reminded that this is not the permanent reality. Like when Gaspar, the team’s manager, announced during the virtual hot chocolate that the team would continue to work from home for at least another four weeks.

Sandrine remembers how Mary encouraged her to hop on the first virtual hot chocolate call just a month ago. She laughs to herself as she sees how different her mindset was back then.

During that first call, she heard about some of her colleagues who were struggling with homeschooling their kids. She could feel their frustration but it was difficult for her to relate to as she doesn’t have any kids of her own. However, it did remind her how good she was when tutoring younger kids when she was in high school, and so she offered to teach maths every day for three kids that happened to be in the same class.

Sandrine now has a card on the team board for teaching maths. If it sounds weird to you, it also sounded weird to her when Gaspar suggested putting it on there. She resisted the idea at first, but she was convinced when Gaspar reasoned, “By doing this you’ll be helping Julian and Jenny, and therefore you are helping the team. It is logical that this important work should be on the team board.”

Sandrine remembers her promise to Mary to let her know how the virtual hot chocolate calls were going. She fires up the messaging app on her phone.


Sandrine finishes preparing her virgin mojito just in time for the video call.

She sees Mary joining and is stunned to see her in sunglasses, big earrings, and crazy make-up.

“Umm. Hi Mary. That, that’s an interesting look you have there.”

“I just thought I’d fabulize myself for the meeting daaarling.” Mary responds, before turning off the video filter.

“Hahaha, oh I get it now. Phew, it was just a video filter. For a moment there I thought that isolation had really gotten to you.”

Mary and Sandrine enjoy a good laugh before Mary continues, “You should have seen their faces when I joined the team call with that filter on this week.”

“Good to see you spreading the fun.”

“Well, I believe it’s a shared responsibility. Now, tell me, what have you been learning from your virtual hot chocolate calls?”

“Well there was certainly something there that I didn’t see.”

“Which was?”

“I’m now homeschooling maths to some of the other team members’ kids each day.”

“What?”

“Two of my colleagues were struggling with homeschooling their kids who happened to be in the same class and I offered to help out. My 45 minute investment frees up two other team members giving an hour and a half back to the team. But there’s more to it than that.”

“Go on.”

“Well besides being a good distraction in the day for me, as it reminds me when I tutored maths to some of the younger students in high school, it’s also taken on a life of its own.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the kids started enjoying it so much that they invited some friends, we now have a group of six. And they gave themselves a team name, the VVs.”

“What does that stand for?”

“I don’t know.” Sandrine laughs, “I guess they want to have their secrets. Anyway, it gets even better.”

Mary sips her drink, eyes locked on the screen in a state of disbelief.

“Salman, he’s a designer from another team in our company, well when he heard about this he decided he wanted to join the movement and is now teaching the kids English. They love his style, especially when he dresses up in a costume on Fridays.”

“Way to go! You are doing a great service to all those parents, and the kids too. Your impact is greater than you think you know.”

“All thanks to you for encouraging me to attend something I was just going to blow off. It’s amazing how a little shift in mindset can provoke such a big impact.”

“Indeed. Thanks for sharing that update with me. I’m definitely going to look at my team mocktail meeting a little differently now.”

Sandrine and Mary go on to catch up about other things. At the end of the call, Sandrine reflects on her experiences over the last few weeks.

“Wow, so much has changed and everyone has adapted in so many new and different ways. If it’s possible to change this quickly in reaction to something, I wonder what’s really possible if I take a more proactive approach.”

Ever felt like Sandrine, where a small step made a big impact?

How has your mindset shifted since Sandrine’s last article? What experiment would you like to try next to add some fun to your team or take some pressure off your colleagues?

Read about Sandrine’s biggest transformation in I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge, available on Amazon now.

Categories
Interview Review

What a review!

Emilien Macchi is a Senior Principal Software Engineer at Red Hat. He’s been a contributor to OpenStack since almost its inception as an open-source project.

I had the pleasure of having Emilien on Le Podcast to discuss how learning and sharing were essential ways of growing his career in Software Engineering.

We covered many topics including; peer reviews, pair programming, remote work, and I also asked what he thinks are the most important things to develop as a coder—spoiler alert, it is not just technical skills.

As Emilien is also one of the first people who left a review of our book on Goodreads, I asked him what he thought about the book and how it has helped him. Here’s what he had to say.


Right before reading the book, I was, and still am, working on a refreshed Vision and Mission statement for my team. It has been a long time since we last reflected on this and we wanted to understand who we are now, who we want to be, and what we want to achieve in the future. This is a strategic team effort; which requires patience and team interactions.

At the same time, on the technical side, I’ve been working on the simplification roadmap for our product, OpenStack TripleO, where there is a long-term goal to make management of OpenStack clouds simpler and more consistent across the Red Hat portfolio. It involves a cross-team effort, and very often the biggest challenge isn’t technical but a human one.

So I was looking for a book which would “refresh” things I’ve learned before but in a new way. I was eager to read I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge to learn some new concepts, update my knowledge, and find some inspiration for these challenges.

I’ve known Alexis for a while and I read his first book, Changing Your Team From the Inside, which I really liked and shared with people around me. So for me, it was a natural step to read this new book as I was sure this book would give me the inspiration I was looking for.

I read the book two times.

The first time was just a quick read through as I found that the first part, the story, very intriguing and difficult to put down.

On the second read I tried all the experiments. It was difficult not to rush through this part, as it required more work from me, but when I remembered to be patient I was delighted to realize that the second part was in fact what I was waiting for from the book.

Doing the work for myself gave me access to insights that answered a lot of my questions and gave me new ideas to implement in the work I was currently doing.

It wasn’t all easy going. Some experiments that I tried are still difficult for me in the real world. For example retrospectives. I have a hard time to stimulate the other team members so we can have productive retrospectives. The book gives concrete steps on how to do it with a list of actions but the “do it” is in my opinion the real challenge. The provided links are useful so I just need to spend more time rethinking how we can make people more involved in that exercise.

When I finished the book, I felt that I got another great tool in my library; which I’ll certainly share and re-use for my personal career. The fact that the book is easily written and not that long made me think I could re-read some chapters while experimenting on some exercises again with my team.

I’m very happy to have the book on my desk as something I can reopen from time to time to remind myself about something I learnt before when I need another “refresh”.

The next step is to share this book with my peers. Having this knowledge has helped me, but we could have an even bigger impact if they can also learn some of the described techniques and we start using them within the team when we work together.


Thanks so much Emilien for sharing your story with the book and how it has helped you.

You can learn more about Emilien on his blog: my1.fr/blog
And you can follow him on Twitter at: @EmilienMacchi

Categories
Announce

Funny thing about launching a book…

A day takes a long time to travel around the world.

So, we set the book to go live on Amazon on May 1, and here in Australia, and over where Alexis is in France it’s May 1 and the book is available on amazon.com.au and amazon.fr.

But amazon.com isn’t quite at May 1 yet, although by the time you read this it might be.

Anyhow. As soon as it’s May 1 in your part of the world (hope the weather’s good there btw) head over to your country’s amazon site and search for:

“I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge”

We hope you buy it.
We hope you read it.
We hope you enjoy it.
But most importantly, we hope you do something with it.

Amazon reviews are most welcome.

And of course, feel free to reach out to Alexis and me if you’d like to discuss it—authors@iamincharge.club

Categories
Announce

Woop, woop!

Pre-order on Amazon for I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge is now open!

“This is an excellent publication if you are ready to rewire your brain to take charge of your development rather than enduring your work.”

— Julien Danjou, Staff Engineer.

“While targeted for Software Engineering, a lot of (if not all) concepts described in the book can be applied in nearly any job. It’s inspiring, and honestly, I wish I had this book when I started my career!” 

— Emilien Macchi, Senior Principal Software Engineer.

“This book completely changed how I viewed my work and how I work with other people.” 

— You. (Well, this could be you, once you’ve read the book of course.)

Or, search your country’s Amazon store for “I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge”.

Categories
Review

The First Review

Julien Danjou is a Staff Engineer at Datadog, where he’s in charge of building a production profiler for Python. Their goal is to provide performance analysis of their customers’ applications by understanding how their production systems behave and then optimize them.

His other hat is Mergify, building a workflow automation system for GitHub. You define rules, e.g., “merge this pull request when the CI passes and the code has been reviewed” and their bot does the merge for you. Simple.

Julien was sketching out his next Python article for his personal site when he received my email request to be an early reviewer of I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge. I thought of him because he was always interested in reading professional development books that we talked about as much as he enjoyed continuing to develop his own technical chops.

Of course, Julien and I had worked together at eNovance and Red Hat so I’m sure he was keen to see what Michael and I had written in I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge just out of curiosity, but he was also keen to understand if this book could genuinely push his leadership skills further.

Despite his unsureness, and his own priorities, the book looked like a quick enough read and his curiosity to learn what was in it tipped him over the edge.

Immediately the book challenged the way he thought about how he interacted with other people, but the book was written in a way that reminded him of The Phoenix Project, which he really enjoyed reading, and gave him the confidence to keep going.  Reading Sandrine’s story pointed out many situations he witnessed or encountered directly in the past. He became inquisitive about how she would handle the situation. 

At the end of each chapter is a summary of what we learn from the story and Julien found this section particularly helpful to pull out and internalize the key points he was learning. The real test, where the rubber meets the road so to speak, was being able to choose an experiment to validate his findings for himself. It was only then that he knew this book could help develop his skills because he’d actually be able to prove it to himself by doing the experiments.

Julien told me that he did have one regret about the book though.

It left him wanting more.

But in true developer style, he found a solution to that problem. He’s going to re-read it because he feels that, “it is an excellent publication if you are ready to rewire your brain to take charge of your development rather than enduring your work.”

Julien would be happy to connect with you if you share common interests and are entrepreneurial minded. Right now, that would cover working on Python performance, building a SaaS startup, or cooking. 🙂

You can reach him through email at julien@danjou.info or on Twitter @juldanjou.

The top three posts on his personal site are:

  1. Sending Emails in Python — Tutorial with Code Examples
  2. The definitive guide on how to use static, class or abstract methods in Python
  3. Profiling Python using cProfile: a concrete case

Julien has also written two books:

To learn Julien’s three tips for how software engineers can become more successful, listen to the podcast I recorded with him (33m06s).

Categories
Story

Confinement

Editor’s note: This article is written from the perspective of a fictional character, Sandrine, the protagonist of I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge. You can learn more about the book at https://iamincharge.club

Sandrine sighs as she starts her third week in confinement. The ability to work from home was one of the things she always wanted to have. But, all of a sudden, the invaluable perk has become a burden to carry every day. Isolation starts to take its toll.

Sandrine feels that she is stressed because of the crisis. Knowing it is normal to feel this way doesn’t seem to help much as some of her friends already lost their jobs at the beginning of the crisis.

Sandrine is glad that her company made the pledge to keep all the workers with full pay. The pledge is one of the reasons she wants to stay productive and keep the company in business.

Contradictory information is coming in from everywhere. It is hard not to feel overwhelmed in all that polarized noise. Sandrine would like to shield herself from negative distraction yet at the same time, in a strange way, scrolling through the infinite social feeds gives her a sense that she is still connected with the world.

*Bing*

Sandrine receives a DM notification on her instant messaging.

It’s her friend, Mary.

Sandrine responds and the two have a short conversation.

Sandrine sips from her glass of water.

A calendar notification pops up on Sandrine’s computer. It’s a reminder that her manager, Gaspar, has invited her to an afternoon virtual hot chocolate with her team.

Sandrine thinks for a moment before replying.

Are you feeling like Sandrine right now?

Mary seems to have found some momentum by becoming more active on social media and checking in on people. She’s even managed to pick up a great idea on virtual mocktails from Sandrine because of it.

And maybe she’s right. Maybe Sandrine could view her meeting from a different perspective. Maybe by thinking about how she could support her colleagues, she will see some actions she can take that don’t exist when she views the situation from the perspective of how she feels.

How about you? Where could you change your perspective to find some momentum in your world right now?

Read what happened next.

Categories
Interview

Why this book?

Michael and I will release I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge in May 2020.

It’s a book to help Software Engineers increase their impact and satisfaction at work. You can learn more about the book and sign up to be the first to know when it launches in May here: iamincharge.club

In the meantime, we asked each other three questions about why we wrote this book and what we hope it achieves for you, the reader.

Interview summary:

Michael interviews Alexis

1. Alexis, I remember you showing me a mockup cover for I am in Charge, what gave you the idea for this book?

The idea came at the end of the review process of Changing Your Team From The Inside. The work we were doing, and the regular meetings we had with John Poelstra and you were so exciting and so profound that I wanted to find a reason to continue that relationship.

The fact that we were spread over the world, John in Portland, Oregon, you in Brisbane, Australia, and me in Boston, Massachusetts, and still able to collaborate as if we were in the same room was for me the sign that we were a great team.

Once you have a great team, you know you can do great things with the team. I wanted to take the opportunity to make our conversations available to people so they could benefit from them.

2. You mentioned your other book, Changing Your Team from the Inside, how do these two books complement each other?

I learned a lot from Changing Your Team From The Inside. I learned from writing it. I learned from the feedback I received from people reading it. I learned from the review process with John and you.

One thing I realized is that I wanted to make the message of Changing Your Team From The Inside universal. I did not want to choose an audience for the book. My thinking was, it can apply to anyone in any sector whatever their role. I still think this is true. But, it is a mistake, without a defined audience, people are never sure they can recommend it to someone. Some people think it is for software engineers, some for coaches or change agents, some for managers. I want to say yes to all of those, but it is not the way it works.

With I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge, we made the choice, thanks to you, to focus on a specific audience in a specific sector. Narrowing the audience forced us to make the recommendations more specific and more actionable.

In the end, I still think people could apply the recommendations even if they don’t have that specific role and even if they are not in that specific sector. This is a little bit like the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The first sentence is: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” If you replace software development in that sentence with singing, cooking, teaching… it could work, and I believe that the values and principles would be interesting for you to look at to introspect on your practices.

3. What is your greatest hope for someone who reads I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge?

The subtitle of the book is: “The book that helps increase your impact and satisfaction at work”. My greatest hope is that readers will do exactly that: increase their impact and increase their satisfaction. I hope that they will be empowered to do that and to spread the message around them. I hope that by doing so they will contribute to making a better world.

Software will play a big role in the future or humanity. I hope that Software Engineers will realize the power they have in shaping that future.

Alexis interviews Michael

1. Michael, what came to mind first when I showed you the mock-up of the cover of a book with your name on it?

Wow. I need to read this book!

Unfortunately before I could read it, we had to write it.

I know the saying is “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” but I felt an immediate, positive reaction when I saw it. I knew, without any hesitation, that I wanted to work with you to write this book.

2. I know you invested a lot of energy in defining how your personal contribution will have the biggest impact on the world. How do you see the book supporting your goals?

The book was a combination of a few things happening for me at the time.

Having an ongoing reason to work with you Alexis was one thing, improving my writing skill was another, but beyond that, I liked the idea of creating an artifact that would persist beyond me. Something that would help those who read it gain insight about how they see their current situation and what they can do about it when they shift their thinking.

3. What is your greatest hope for someone who reads I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge?

Two things.

One. To realise that in any situation you can, at the very least, control your thoughts and your actions—which will ultimately change your result.

Two. To recognise that doing the first thing is an ongoing process that only improves with practice over time.

Be the first to know when the book launches

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